At no other point in my lifetime have I been as aware of the need for frank discussions about serious issues. Of course we’ve always had problems. But never before has hate seemed to be in ascendancy, or have dark forces been as emboldened as they are now. We’ve had other troubling phases in our history, and we’ve overcome them. We’ll overcome this one as well. But it will take honesty. It will take self-reflection. And it will take books.
I first understood the horrors of the Holocaust by getting to know Anne Frank as intimately as I knew my best friends. I first understood poverty and struggle by spending time with Francie Nolan and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Although we were separated by almost a century and were from different places, reading Francie’s story was like dipping into my own and finding the great relief of common ground. And it’s not only in our early reading that we learn about our world. I’ve walked a mile in the shoes of a child soldier, a minimum-wage worker, the child of irresponsible vagabonds and a seeker traveling the world… all from the comfort of my living room. (You may remember the 2013 New School study showing that reading develops empathy).
It’s for these reasons that it always gratifies me when someone flags SECRET SIDE as a way of gaining insight into one undocumented immigrant’s experience. A recent Book Riot list did just that. I link to it here out of gratitude, first, but also to draw your attention to a few other social justice-themed books you may want to discover. Because in a world as pained as ours is, every step in understanding someone else is a step in the right direction.
Click here to see the full list.